Fashion History – How Historical Events Influenced Fashion in the 1930’s and 1940’s

History and world events often create fashion trends. We can not always see it in the lives that we are leading now, in the present; but it is sometimes easier when we look into the past.

The 1930’s was a time of frugality known as the Great Depression, a world wide economic downturn that put people out of work and effected every part of their lives. In the United States, nearly one quarter of the population was unemployed. Bank failures caused people to lose their life savings.The new austerity must have been a heavy blow for the people who had just lived through the Roaring Twenties, a time of heady spending and extravagance.

Women’s fashions made a big change when the economy went south. The exotic frippery of the Jazz Age soon disappeared to be replaced by more simple styles of dress. Waistlines rose and hems fell, as they often do in bad economic times. While a sleek elegance gained popularity, it was a much more subdued look, classic and understated after the exaggerated styles of the 1920’s.

Hollywood offered women a glimpse of glamor, but even the luxurious Hollywood styles had a quieter tone. Gone were the short skirts, long necklaces, and feathers of the 20’s. Evening gowns of the Great Depression hugged the hips and widened at the hem, creating an elegant and graceful silhouette.

By the end of the 1930’s, Adolph Hitler had risen to power in Germany. This worldwide threat, along with the ensuing war had an effect on fashion trends of the 1940’s. As nations were invaded, or went off to war, supplies and materials that went into the creation of clothing fell short. When Germany invaded France, Paris lost its influence over the world of fashion. People in the Allied countries saw the fashion designers of Paris as working in cooperation with the Nazis.

The governments of both Britain and the United States placed restrictions on the production of clothing as cloth and other items needed for garment manufacture were needed by the military. Due to fabric rationing, dress and skirt hemlines rose. Buttons were used for functional purposes only, and lapels narrowed. Women who had lived through the austerity of the Great Depression made jackets and coats out of old blankets, remade dresses, and generally ‘made do’ with ‘war wise’ clothing styles.

It was not until after World War II ended that clothing styles became more extravagant. When Christian Dior unveiled his ‘New Look’ in 1947, people were shocked at the amount of fabric used to create the long, antebellum style skirts and wide brimmed hats.

Retro Leather Jackets – Recreating Automotive Fashion History

Spending the better part of 40+ years with a variety of major fashion retailers, I have learned some certain truths. Along with the inevitability of death and taxes is the truth that , in fashion, what had gone around comes around again. The cycle is usually generational. For some reason, every 40 years the essence of the hot fashion of the time is revived and given the title “Retro”. It was only natural, that with the upsurge in Vintage Automobile collecting and racing, some of the hot fashion associated with with the era of the 1960’s / 1970’s would start showing up about now – and also inevitable that there would be a large appeal to a younger, non automotive related audience.

First comes the fabric. Leather jackets have always been cool, but when worn by Marlon Brando and his motorcycle gang, Jimmy Dean in his Porsche 550, Steve McQueen “The King of Cool” in the Great Escape – “cool” had a new meaning. Leather in jackets relating to automobiles, modern and vintage, is back with a vengeance. Next comes the style. When I was buying jackets back in the late 60’s / early 70’s there was one style designed for “cool ” drivers and its generic name was the descriptive name of the company – “Style Auto”. Literally thousands of dozens of this style in a variety of fabric were made. It’s baaaack.

Tony “a2z racer” Adamowicz, working from his original 1970 collection of jackets has produced and is marketing an improved retro Top Grain Leather Jacket that captures the essence of the original. Perfect for both the new and old Porsche, Corvette, BMW, Shelby Mustang GT500, etc. Tony, who just had a podium finish at Infineon Raceway in his 40 year old 1969 F5000 Championship car, said that he will also be designing this Satin Lined, Leather Jacket in other fabrics including Corduroy and Nylon Cire. Tony plans to be styling in his vintage Datsun 240Z. I plan to follow suit in my 65 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. Niche market to mainstream continues to be the mantra for retro design.

Costume and Fashion History of Jewelry

In the ancient times, gold was in great demand for making jewelry. Gold was rare, it would not get dull and the best part was that it was flexible; therefore it was quite easy to make various designs out of it. Fantastic necklaces, diadems, bracelets, earrings, pendants, armlets, head ornaments, rings, pectoral ornaments and collars created out of gold were all manufactured in ancient Egypt.

You must be aware that ancient Egypt was the land of the Pharaohs. In the year 1922, Howard Carter in one of his excavations stumbled upon the grand discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb along with a lot of gold funerary relics; each and every piece depicted the work of art that was prevalent in ancient Egypt. Then comes the Gold and Gems that was available in Greece in the 1400 BC era.

During the ancient times in Greece, beads that were in the shape of natural forms such as beetles, flowers and shells were created on a huge scale. Gorgeous and fragile earrings and necklaces were discovered in burial locations in parts of Northern Greece. By 300 BC, the Greeks were busy manufacturing multi colored jewelry and they made use of pearls, emeralds, amethysts and garnets.

In addition, they made use of materials like enamel, colored stones and glass. They also created carved cameos of Indian Sardonyx together with filigree gold work. Indian Sardonyx basically is a brown pink and cream agate stone with stripes. Beads were manufactured in a method by sticking two flat pieces of gold together and packing them up with sand. Now let us know about the magnificent Italian Gold and striking Roman Coinage.

During the Eight century BC, the Italian Etruscans in the Tuscany region manufactured gold work that had a texture of granules. They manufactured huge earrings, necklaces, bracelets and fibulae or clasps. In addition to all this they manufactured pendants that were unique. These pendants were created to be hollow so that perfume could be filled in it. To this day and age the Italians are well known for their excellent quality as well as stylish fashion of manufacturing gorgeous designs in gold.

The Romans used to make use of 18 and 24 carat gold in coinage. The coinage happened to be the craftsman’s raw material for ornamental jewel work, as it was quite easily accessible. Some 2000 years back, the Romans used to make use of sapphires brought in from Sri Lanka, amber, cloudy emeralds, Indian diamond crystals and garnets. When England was ruled by the Romans, fossilized wood known as jet from the North of England was shaped into remarkable pieces. Then there was the Pearls and Gems Authentic and Artificial Jewelry.

Jewels at all times have been made use of as symbols of love. Excellent quality gems and precious metals were used to make good quality artificial jewelry in order to trick people into buying them instead of the authentic ones. Authentic pearls and gemstones were brought in from the east and the Italians were the ones who mainly purchased them. The Italian traders after that went on to sell the merchandise in Europe.